Day 18

Day 18: Misa and Munguau

slept over at the temple last night.

I waited around to shadow the reporter again, but he canceled without advising me.

I went to visit the only Korean Catholic church in Argentina at 4pm to interview a priest and then to attend misa at 5:30pm.

I figured it would be proper of me to visit a Catholic church since I had already visited a Protestant church and a Buddhist temple. Protestants are the most numerous, then Catholics, then Buddhists– I’m not sure where atheists come in. Interestingly enough, in Korea, around 27.6% profess themselves as Buddhists, 18.5% as Protestants, 5.7% as Catholics, and 46% as nothing, according to a page on the GEEA (Grupo de Estudios del Este Asiático). So that means that there are either a lot of Korean Christians immigrating to Argentina, or that they convert to Christianity when they move here. I think the later possibility is more likely because Christians believe that it is their duty to evangelize, and so they help the immigrants with every possible difficulty in adjusting so that the immigrants will not only feel obligated but will feel that it is easier just to attend church. The church provides a social, cultural and potentially an economic network that a newly arrived immigrant can take advantage of. So naturally, people are drawn to these resources.

As the only Korean Catholic church in Argentina, one can somewhat estimate how many Catholics there are in Buenos Aires by using its membership records. That said, there probably exist Korean Catholics who choose to attend their local parish church instead of coming all the way to Bajo Flores to attend the Korean Catholic Church.

About 2,500 members are registered at the church, but about 1,500 regularly attend, according to the priest’s estimates. He had recently arrived from Korea 3 months ago. Every 3-4 years, I believe, the residing priest and nun change at the church. There are about 70-80 youth members, which is evidently more than in Korea. This is because in Korea, all the youth are busy studying, studying, studying because of all of the competition in education and later in work. It’s pretty nuts, with all of the pressure. Here, and in America as well, there isn’t as much pressure to succeed.

Misa (mass) is in Korean, and there is Korean school on Saturdays before the youth’s mass, which is at 5:30pm. Regular mass is held on Sundays at 9am and at 11am, while there is a children’s mass at 12:30pm. No lunch is provided compared to Korean protestant churches, but they do sell some snack-like lunches on Sundays. I was actually surprised by how much of a social/cultural community the Catholic church provided for its members. I don’t know why, but I was under the impression that Catholic churches provided less of a community than protestant ones. There was a large map of the City of Buenos Aires outside the office, divided up geographically by certain districts. Each district had a coordinator who was in charge of organizing events, activities and of taking care of the people within that district. The father also told me that they had all sorts of clubs, like tennis, sports, bible study, etc.

While interviewing the father, I was surprised to hear the electric guitar playing in the background because I thought that the Catholic mass was pretty traditional and rigidly structured. I attended the mass, and I found it still more structured compared to a protestant service, but it certainly was more geared towards the youth. Unfortunately, the youth find it hard to participate or understand what’s going on because mass is in Korean, so I think a lot of them struggled just to pay attention. I understand the church’s intention in having the mass in Korean (trying to instill their language and culture in the youth), but it kind of just leaves the youth brain dead and unengaged when they are not able to understand and then actively participate in dialogue within their own communities. It makes docile and leaves them unprepared to make their own decisions and take on the responsibilities when their time comes. At least, these are my thoughts and impressions. Transition seems hard.

I met up with some Munguau members later for dinner. These Korean-Argentines are apparently different from the church-going-Korean-Argentines. They are more Argentine, according to them and other youth. Their lifestyle is less traditionally Korean and they associate and identify more with the “outside” Argentine society compared to the church-going youth. This is quite the same in the US too. It’s really just a question of comfort level– who do they identify more as, as well as social pressure.

The question is who constructs these identities, and how are they maintained? What is the significance of donning these identities? By examining who creates these identities, the power dynamics within the society become evident. Also, immigrant communities respond in unique ways to the distinct circumstances posed by its host country. I don’t know, but I feel like they can be indicators of the social, political, economic and cultural problems/conflicts that exist within a nation. As well as on a global scale. (I don’t mean to extrapolate too far… but) for example, why did these immigrants come? did they move for social, political, economic, or environmental reasons? etc.

Bicentennial Celebration in front of the Cabildo

I met up with a friend from Munguau at the Cabildo to see a Bicentennial celebration. It was fantastic; they projected images/videos onto the building, accompanied by music. very impressive. My friend was there to take pictures of the event. Later we went to someone’s house for pizza and met other Munguau members.

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